Ontario is stepping up its provincial “stay at home” orders in the face of rising case counts of COVID-19.
Premier Doug Ford announced late Friday afternoon that as of Saturday, all outdoor gatherings will be banned, except for members of the same household.
Recreation facilities including playgrounds and golf courses will be closed, and all “essential” shopping including grocery stores will be limited to 25 per cent capacity.
Police will be given the power to stop people on the street or in their vehicles to ask why they are not at home. Those breaking the province’s order may be subject to a $750 fine.
In addition, the province will move to close its borders with Quebec and Manitoba, except for “essential” travel.
Ford said the new measures are needed because “there are few options left” for the province as infection and hospitalization rates continue to hit record highs.
Ontario’s state of emergency and stay-at-home order will now be in effect until at least May 20.
“As the latest modelling confirms, without taking immediate and decisive action COVID-19 cases will spiral out of control and our hospitals will be overwhelmed,” Ford said.
“That’s why we are making difficult, but necessary decisions to reduce mobility and keep people in the safety of their own homes. We need to contain the spread of this deadly virus, while getting vaccines in as many arms as quickly as possible.”
The “stay at home” order requires everyone to remain at home except for specified purposes, such as going to the grocery store or pharmacy, accessing health care services (including getting vaccinated), for outdoor exercise, or for work that cannot be done remotely.
The province said that, based on the latest modelling data, COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and ICU occupancy are continuing to increase rapidly and are now at their highest levels since the start of the pandemic in March 2020.
The number of COVID-19 hospitalizations in the province has increased by 29.2 per cent between the period of April 7 and 13, 2021.
In addition, between April 8 and 14, Ontario has seen the number of patients in intensive care due to COVID related critical illness increase from 552 to 659, and admissions are projected to rise to over 1,000 patients by the end of the month.
Over the past week, the positivity rate in the province is at 7.2 per cent, well above the high-alert threshold of 2.5 per cent.
On Friday, the province reported 4,812 new cases of COVID-19, bringing the seven-day average to 4,292, both new records.
“As we see the trends in key health indicators deteriorate to levels far exceeding anything we have seen before, it is necessary to follow public health and workplace safety measures given this continued and rapid case growth,” said Dr. David Williams, Ontario’s chief medical officer of health.
“By staying at home and limiting travel for essential purposes only, such as getting groceries or going to a medical appointment or to get vaccinated, we can reduce mobility and help interrupt transmission of this virus.”
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